A Beginner’s Guide to Bowhunting Spring Turkeys
- 14 Apr, 2019
Many avid deer hunters anxiously await the opening of deer season each year and lament its closing because they are forced to wait an entire year before the next hunting season arrives. However, for those hunters for whom a single hunting season is simply not enough, hunting Wild Turkeys with a bow can be just as challenging and just as exciting as hunting Whitetail Deer! In fact, bow hunting for wild turkeys can become an addiction every bit as deep because the anticipation of waiting for a Tom to answer your call in the early morning woods and then approach your decoy across those last few critical yards as you ever-so-carefully draw your bow can be some of the most exciting moments of your life!
But, before you take up the hunt for wild turkeys, you first have to locate them and, this is best done prior to the opening of the spring hunting season. Fortunately, this is where hunters with deer hunting experience have an advantage because, like deer, turkeys require both food and safe bedding areas. Therefore, the trick to locating wild turkeys is the same as it is for locating deer by first identifying favored feeding areas and then identifying favored roosts.
However, unlike later in the season, rather than walking the fields and woods to scout potential turkey habitat, you should instead start by using your vehicle to locate flocks of wild turkeys feeding in open fields and note their location. This, in turn, will provide you with knowledge of some of their favored feeding areas. Then, once you have located some of their favorite feeding areas, you can use one of three different techniques to locate both strut zones and favored roosts
For instance, you can enter the adjacent woods during the daylight hours and often locate wild turkeys by calling to them using a Crow or Hawk call which will often elicit a response from the dominate males who just can't seem to help themselves. In addition, you can also use this same technique to locate favored, day time, strut zones which are prime locations to set up a blind and one or more turkey decoys.
In addition, another technique that you can use is to first locate a flock of wild turkeys feeding in an open field and then wait until you see them leaving the field and entering the adjacent woods. Then, you can carefully follow them at a safe distance and note which trees that they choose to roost in and again take note of the location where they are roosting.
Yet another often used tactic among experienced wild turkey hunters is to again note where turkeys are seen feeding in fields but, this time, wait until after dark to enter the woods adjacent to the field. Then, once in the woods, a predator call such as an owl call is used to elicit a response from the roosting Toms and again, the location is noted and likely ambush points are determined.
However, regardless of whether you follow the turkeys to their roosts or locate them after dark by using a predator call (aka “locator” call), you should then scout the woods around their roosts and note several ambush points in the various directions that they are most likely to fly when they leave their roosts at dawn to feed. That way, you can quickly move from one ambush point to another if the flock takes an unexpected turn and be ready to intercept them when they arrive.
Of course, once you have determined one or more locations where you believe it likely you will encounter your quarry, you will then need to set up or build some sort of blind so that the incoming Tom does not see you as you raise and draw your bow. However, when either constructing or deploying a blind, it is of utmost importance that it have enough internal space to enable the hunter to raise and shoot his bow without interference. In addition, it is also wise to make certain that your blind provides you with 360 degrees of concealment so that you can still draw and aim your bow in case a Tom decides to come in from a direction that you did not anticipate.
In addition, deploying one or more turkey decoys is a wise idea because doing so not only gives any approaching Tom something to focus his ardor on, it also provides a focus for their extremely acute eyesight. Thus, deploying one or more turkey decoys is likely to provide you with a far greater chance of being able to draw your bow and release your arrow without being spotted even when concealed by a blind.
Of course, if a Tom does respond to your calls and does decide to investigate in the hope of an amorous encounter, then he is going to expect to see a hen when he arrives. But, if all he sees is your blind where he heard the calls emanating from, then his alarm bells will quickly start sounding! Consequently, the wisest course of action is to give him what he expects to see in the form of a hen decoy.
However, it should be noted that there are several different types of turkey decoys as well as several different methods for deploying them. For instance, one method that works well is to combine more than one hen decoy with an accompanying jake decoy while placing one of the hens in a relaxed, feeding, posture and the other in an alert posture in order to cause an approaching Tom to feel at ease.
In addition, because mature toms are only interested in the back end of a hen, it is wise to position the hen decoys such that they are facing away from you which will, in turn, very likely cause the tom to approach the decoys from behind. Consequently, this will position the tom between you and the hens with his back to you. Furthermore, by positioning the jake decoy so that it is facing you, you again increase your odds that the tom will approach your jake decoy with his back to you as well as he comes in to confront the jake.
Another question that is often asked by novice turkey hunters is where to aim when targeting a wild turkey? Thus, you should also be aware that some bow hunters feel that aiming for the "vitals" (located low on the body between the base of the wing and the thigh) is the best shot. But, in truth, when a turkey is shot broadside with an arrow, more often than not they are still able to take flight or, at least run away very quickly while leaving too little blood trail for the hunter to follow.
Therefore, a much better strategy is to position your decoys in such a way that the Tom walks past you from behind your blind and approaches your decoys with his back to you because this position enables you to aim for the center of mass along the spine and, a strike anywhere along the spine will instantly immobilize the bird. Plus, because it is best to shoot your bird at a distance of no more than twenty yards, standard fixed blade or mechanical broadhead will work just fine which saves you from having to purchase one or more of the various specialized turkey broadheads.
In fact, some archery equipment manufactures now offer broadheads with extra-long blades that are specifically designed to decapitate a turkey on impact. Thus, these radical broadhead designs enable a bow hunter to aim for the turkey’s neck and, because of the broadhead’s extra-wide cutting diameter, pinpoint accuracy is not necessary.
So, if you are one of those anxious hunters who eagerly awaits the coming of deer season each Fall but laments the lack of legal hunting opportunities available throughout the rest of the year, then you might want to give Spring turkey hunting a try! After all, the same skills and equipment that you use to hunt deer in the Fall will serve you well when hunting wild turkeys in the Spring and thus, your hunting season will be greatly extended!
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